As a young child, I was made aware of my heritage. My maternal grandmother is Mexican from the southwestern border of Arizona, and my maternal grandfather is Italian, a man from Pennsylvania, whose parents came from the tip of the boot of the country of Italy. Family rumors said that my biological father, who I was not raised with, was Mexican and Native American. One look at me won’t doubt my heritage if you think of the bias of Latinx and Native American cultures. Growing up in Arizona and Nevada, this mixed background was common. I have brown skin and black hair like many others I was around, spoke English with a “Mexican” accent, although I spoke very little Spanish. My family gathered with a mixture of Spanglish speaking, Mexican food, with a side dish of Pasta Pomodoro and a glass of wine.
I grew up proud of my heritage. I was captivated with the fast-paced language, delicious cuisine, and loud, and happy family. I moved to the Midwest, and suddenly, I was the only person who looked as I did. We moved away from my Mexican family members, and soon I was questioned, guessed at, and asked to be proven by my fluency in a second language, or speak like everyone else. It seemed that I needed to prove just how ethnic I was.
As I grew up, I learned it was easier to assimilate, but as an adult, I have learned assimilation takes a lot of time, energy, and tongue biting. After having a child, I have become aware that it is easier to be who I was born to be than be someone who easily fits into a mold. Today, as I continue to dig into my past, question relatives, read, ask questions, and affirm my mission of uncovering my roots, my truth becomes more transparent. I am finally okay with checking more than one box on my official forms, and I am comfortable with others being uneasy from not being able to fit me into a box. I will continue to uncover, search, learn, and share the truth, so my daughter does not have to fit into that box.
Adriana Peeples is a mother of a vivacious 6 year old, a lifelong learner, an elementary education teacher, lover of the arts, and a truth seeker hoping to shed some light into some dark spaces.